Policy Update for May-July 2020

The following post was originally set as an email newsletter to our friends and supporters.


Re: Lincoln Policy Team Activities for May-July 2020

Dear friends and supporters of Lincoln:

Thank you for staying in the loop with our work. In the past few months, we’ve worked hard to shift our outputs to virtual. This includes our annual conference, podcast, and lots of virtual events. Keep scrolling to see some of what we’ve been up to, and catch up on any best hits you might have missed.

Reboot Conference

Lincoln’s annual Reboot conference is going virtual, and registration is now open here. Details are up at www.rebootconference.org.

The conference now includes three days of programming on November 6, 9, and 10. Each day will focus on a different theme, with one day on tech policy in 2021, one day highlighting innovators from Silicon Valley, and one day focused on tech and the future of media.

The Realignment Podcast x Lincoln

If you followed my past few email updates, you know our original plan was to launch a new Lincoln podcast hosted by Marshall Kosloff. Instead, we’re partnering with him and co-host Saagar Enjeti on their already successful podcast, The Realignment, moving it out of the Hudson Institute. You can read about it here. The first episode of the new season features Sen. Marco Rubio. Tech investors Balaji Srinivasan and Joe Lonsdale are coming up next. 

Letters, Testimony, Briefs, and Regulatory Comments

Daniel Schuman and I spearheaded a letter bringing together 40+ groups urging appropriators in Congress to redirect more resources to the legislative branch to enhance its capacity for oversight, lawmaking, and constituent services. We were joined by conservative groups including FreedomWorks, the R Street Institute, National Taxpayers Union, American Principles Project, and others, as well as other groups such as the Congressional Management Foundation, the American Library Association, and many more. We write:

Unfortunately, with a budget that is less than 1% of federal discretionary spending—of which only a small subset is spent on policymaking, oversight, and constituent services—Congress struggles to retain experienced staff and serve as a check on the Administrative State. Indeed, Congress is far weaker than it was even a quarter-century ago even as the challenges have become greater.

This effort seems to be getting some traction, with the House subsequently supporting a monumental 5% increase for Congress, and the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress showing bipartisan support for investing in the First Branch.

Daniel Schuman and I also wrote a letter to the Committee on House Administration ahead of their recent hearing on remote voting, featuring former Speaker Newt Gingrich. We write about Gingrich’s legacy as speaker, and how to overcome the challenges of adapting to a remote working environment:

It is important to understand the modern House of Representatives, forged by Speaker Newt Gingrich. When Republicans seized the House majority in 1995, Gingrich oversaw the work that accelerated the House’s transformation from the analog age into the digital. This included the reorganization of operational information technology under the newly created Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, the creation and adoption of the House Information Systems Program Plan by the newly created Computer and Information Services Working Group, and the subsequent CyberCongress project. Fulfilling his long standing posture against corruption, he also shook up ossified practices like ice-delivery and member car washes, which reeked of decadence. Despite helping advance positive reforms, Gingrich’s approach to governance greatly undermined Congress as an institution.

Scott McKaig joined an amicus brief led by Charles Duan in Van Buren v. United States, a case concerning the far-reaching and anticompetitive Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. They write:

Laws generally do not aim to suppress competition, entrench monopolies, or reduce consumer choice and welfare. Yet the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, under a broad construction applied by the Court of Appeals, embraces these adverse, anticompetitive results. Firms can wield the broad construction, under which access to computer information is “unauthorized” whenever the accessor violates a contractual or other stated term for how the information may be used, in multiple ways that do not merely injure competitors but rather impede competition as a whole.

Joel Thayer filed comments with the FCC, in WC Docket Nos. 17-287, on bridging the digital divide for low income consumers. He also wrote a letter in support of expanding marketing opportunities for emerging technologies.

I submitted written testimony to the Senate legislative branch appropriations subcommittee on enhancing science and technology expertise at GAO’s STAA team. As of this writing, the Senate has not moved forward with its companion to the House bill.

Other letters, regulatory comments, and testimony can be viewed here.

Research & Commentary

In an article for the Federalist Society, I discuss Congress’s declining capacity to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, and argue that it’s time to strengthen and modernize the institution. I write:

Members of Congress can be seen routinely struggling with complex technical issues, and offices have trouble staying on top of their legislative and oversight responsibilities. The end result is that more policy decision making is outsourced to the administrative state, where it is less responsive to democratic forces, and has limited oversight. As the Cato Institute’s William Yeatman put it, Congress’ institutional weakness “is a growing threat to liberty.”

Alexiaa Jordan and Sean Roberts published a new working paper, “Secure and Accessible Elections: Absentee Voting Solutions for 2020 and Beyond.” They argue:

The U.S. election system includes more than 3,100 counties, 116,000 polling places, 900,000 polling workers, and 150 million registered voters. Modifying these complex systems is no easy feat in the best of times, and doing so on short notice during a global pandemic is even more challenging. Expanding access to absentee voting is a challenge we must meet. However, this must be done while also addressing security, integrity, and implementation challenges.

In The Hill, Dan Lips and Bryan Berky write about using technology to continue the legacy of Sen. Tom Coburn:

GAO has a new team focused on using data science to modernize government oversight. Like banks monitoring credit card transactions, federal agencies could use data analytics to stop billions in improper payments. Congress could pass legislation requiring GAO to increase monitoring of federal agencies improper payments to focus agencies on ending this particular kind of egregious federal waste. Like Dr. Coburn’s 2010 amendment, the result could be hundreds of billions in government savings. 

Dan Lips also writes about how USAID’s new digital strategy can counter China’s rising global influence:

The future of global democracy and internet freedom in the 21st century will be decided by the race to build and maintain global information technology infrastructure, including the current transition to 5G networks. Expanding an open, global digital ecosystem has the potential to improve lives around the world, empower women and other disenfranchised groups, and strengthen government accountability. Allowing the unchecked spread of digital authoritarianism will accelerate the decline of democratic governance around the world.

Marshall Kosloff writes about the Google-Federalist controversy, arguing conservative media should learn the lesson from viral media sites like Mic and Buzzfeed, and not build their businesses on capricious systems they have no control over:

The central lesson from The Federalist‘s experience is that publishers need to diversify their revenue sources, not over-relying on any advertising, search, or social media platform. From this perspective, the issue at hand is not necessarily Google’s power, but rather a publisher’s decision to rely on an advertising platform whose rules allow for demonetization. The Federalist…needs to further develop direct-revenue sources that are not controlled by third-party platforms whose whims can shift with the news cycle. To protect its long-term financial viability, The Federalist should expand its paid-subscription content and delve into the membership support model pioneered by NPR and recently implemented by Vox and BuzzFeed.

Studio head Ian Patterson released a new short paper on changing opportunities for education. He writes: 

Parents of school-aged children are rapidly warming to alternative forms of education in light of coronavirus and distancing measures… As a result, the future is unexpectedly bright for smaller approaches like homeschooling, hybrid models, and micro-schools, while traditional public and private schools appear headed for severe setbacks.

Some of our other writings include:

Policy Hackers

Our Policy Hackers program has been running at a quick pace, although we’re still sad to miss in person events. We’ve already hosted a ton of great virtual sessions, featuring speakers in areas like congressional procedure, telecom policy, public affairs, grassroots advocacy, and more. One of our fellows also had his name mentioned in this week’s big tech hearing. 

Events

Lincoln has been hosting weekly virtual events relevant to our work, featuring speakers such as FCC chairman Ajit Pai, investor and entrepreneur Joe Lonsdale,  Congressman Rodney Davis, EFF executive director Cindy Cohn, and others.

Videos from past events can be viewed here.

See below for a full list of events:

Final Thoughts

I hope this update was helpful in keeping you in the loop on our work. As always, suggestions or feedback on any of our writing or programming is welcome.

Sincerely,

Zach Graves
Head of Policy, Lincoln Network
zach.graves@joinlincoln.org

Tags:

Image
Name
Designation
Short Description
Social Links
Dan Lips
VP for National Security and Oversight
Garret Johnson Lincoln Executive Director
Garrett Johnson
Executive Director
Zach Graves
Head of Policy
Sean Roberts
Senior Advisor
J. Scott McKaig
CFO and General Counsel
Arthur Rizer
Senior Advisor
Grace Meyer
Head of Development
Marshall Kosloff
Director of Outreach and Media